WILBY Risk Management consultants have a number of clients who operate engineering or vehicle service and repair workshops and as such are often asked similar questions regarding safety footwear.
Some employees have a reluctance to wear footwear with toe protection and some employers are reluctant to pay for it. It is well worth clarifying the legal position with the following points:
l All types of personal protective equipment, including safety footwear, gloves, eye protection, hearing protection, cold and wet weather clothing are covered by the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
l The employer should assess risks to employees, visitors, members of the public in all areas of the workplace, including the workshop
l The employer should assess which risks have not been adequately controlled by other means and where items of personal protective equipment are necessary. Such risks could be from falling heavy objects or crush injuries from trolley jacks or forklift truck wheels
l Specific items of personal protective equipment, such as safety shoes with toe protection, should then be identified and the wearing of this PPE by all people exposed to these risks must be enforced
l The employer must provide these items of PPE free of charge to employees. It is common practice for employees to “top- up” to buy better footwear above the basic version supplied by the employer, provided the chosen items still provide adequate protection
l The employer must enforce the wearing of the PPE by people exposed to the uncontrolled risks. We recommend regular, recorded checks in the workplace by supervisors.
l The employer must train, inform and instruct employees on why the PPE is required, how it should be worn and maintained and what to do if defects are noted. We recommend this basic training is given at induction and repeated periodically and that records are kept. The PPE requirement could be included in workplace rules
l Employees must use the PPE as instructed and report defects.
While these points focus on safety footwear, they hold true for all types of personal protective equipment.
We frequently hear: “How is it we have never been told this before?” “The insurers never required it!” “We have passed audits before without this rule!” As in all things, the answer you get depends on the question asked. Insurance surveys do not cover every workplace issue. Some workplace audits have a limited health and safety content and to pass the audit does not imply full legal compliance.
Wilby Risk Management can carry out detailed audits to check levels of conformance to legal requirements and best practice standards. Relying on other surveys or audits can lead to a false sense of security and leave an employer open to prosecution or compensation claims in the event of an accident.